The remains of Sri Lanka's ancient cities indicate quite clearly that their layout incorporated extensive gardens. Sigiriya with its different types of gardens is the prime example. The medicinal garden was a feature where some monastic orders flourished. The still beautiful Ritigala monastic complex is proof of this. The history of the more recent botanic garden comes down to the 14th century when King Wickremabhahu III is thought to have established one. Although this garden did not survive, another, Peradeniya Botanic Garden was established around the same location in the mid 19th century with plants brought from Kew Gardens in England. Prior to this, botanic gardens had been established by the British in Slave Island Colombo and in the southern city of Kalutara.
Peradeniya Botanic Garden operated as an independent unit until it came under the Department of Agriculture in 1912. During this period several varieties of vegetable, food and cash crops were grown experimentally here. Currently covering 147 acres and housing 4,000 species of plants that include orchids, spices, medicinal plants and a collection of palms among other varieties, this picturesque site occupies a prime position among such gardens in the Asian region.
Hakgala is the second largest botanic garden in Sri Lanka and shares space with the Hakgala Strict Nature Reserve at 5,400 ft above sea level. Established in the 19th century for the experimental cultivation of cinchona, the site with its cool temperate climate was converted to a botanic garden in the latter part of the century. Currently there are several thousand varieties of flora including several subtropical and temperate plants, orchids and roses.
The 43 acre Henarathgoda Botanic Gardens Gampaha on the banks of the Attanagalu Oya (river) was the last botanic garden established by the British. This site has an extensive collection of tropical flora among which are palms, orchids, trees endemic to Sri Lanka and medicinal plants. African and Malayan arrow poison trees are among the collection. It is best known as the site where the seedlings of the Brazilian rubber tree were first planted in South Asia, laying the foundation for an agricultural revolution. The gnarled remains of one of these trees are still to be found here.
Mirijjawila Botanic Gardens is among the newest, currently being established in the dry zone in southern Sri Lanka. It is to feature rare species of flora endemic to the dry zone of the country. This attraction is expected to lead the way in the conservation of dry and arid zone flora of Sri Lanka.
Although 52 acres in Ganewatte, in Sri Lanka's intermediate zone has been set aside for a medicinal plants garden it is yet to be developed and at present only 8 acres of 'nelli' trees are found here.
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Chandrishan Williams is a travel writer who writes under the pen name, Caleb Falcon. He specializes in writing content based on the many exciting world adventures that await intrepid travellers.
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